Paul Manship, “Actaeon”, 1925, Gilt Bronze, Alexis Rudier Fondeur, 120.7 x 130.8 x 33.7 cm, Cooper Hewitt Museum
Born in December of 1885 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Paul Manship was an American sculptor whose subjects and modern style were largely inspired by classical sculpture. After attending Mechanical Arts High School, he took evening classes at the St. Paul Institute School of Art from 1892 to 1903, but left to work as a designer and illustrator. In 1905 Manship enrolled briefly in the Art Students League in New York City under Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a sculptor trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Soon after his arrival to New York, Paul Manship became an assistant to stone sculptor Solon Borglum, whom he credited as the master who had most influenced him. With money saved, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1907-08 under sculptor Charles Grafly. Moving back to New York, Manship worked at the studio of Viennese sculptor Isidore Konti, where he modeled a decorative relief entitled “Man with Wild Horses”, later shown at the National Academy of Design in 1908.
In 1909 at the age of twenty-three, Paul Manship received a three-year scholarship, the coveted American Prix de Rome, to study at the American Academy in Rome. His early work was influenced by Rodin’s expressive style but, after traveling throughout Italy and Greece, he developed an appreciation for Hellenistic statues and for Egyptian, Assyrian, and Minoan artwork. This affinity for archaic work influenced Manship’s unified linear style of sculpture for which he is well known; his novel approach represented a break from the popular Beaux-Arts style of his former teachers.
After three years abroad, Manship settled in New York City in 1912, where he began a successful career that would last fifty years. His arresting sculptures, with their freely modeled simple forms and dramatic gestures, were in demand in the New York art world. In February of 1913 Manship had a solo exhibition of his work at New York’s Architectural League. An instant success with critics and the public, it resulted in many private and public commissions.
This success of Manship’s solo show was followed with two more exhibitions of his work in November of 1913, moving his career briskly forward. A show at the Berlin Photographic Company in 1914 resulted in the sale of almost one hundred of Manship’s bronze pieces. He was honored by his peers for this achievement with a gold medal at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915.
Some of Paul Manship’s most notable works are: the set of monumental bronze gates at the entrance to the New York Zoological Park in the Bronx area of New York, erected as a memorial to Paul Rainey; the Prometheus Fountain in Rockefeller Center, New York City, which ultimately became his signature work despite his disappointment with the subject; and the “Time and Fates Sundial” with the accompanying four “Moods of Time”, executed in plaster of Paris, for the reflecting pool of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.
Paul Manship, at the top of his profession, was bestowed with many honors: membership in the Academia Nacional de las Bellas Artes in Argentina in 1944; membership in Paris’ Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1946; membership in l’Accademia di San Luca in Rome in 1952, the gold medal for sculpture by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City in 1945; membership in the French Legion of Honor; and election to president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1948.
“I’m not especially interested in anatomy, though naturally I’ve studied it. And, although I approve generally of normally correct proportions, what matters is the spirit which the artist puts into his creation—the vitality, the rhythm, the emotional effect.” —Paul Manship